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CampaignPress Release

Essential migrant workers denied the right to have their immediate family with them hold mass protest at Department of Justice

Promised review of family reunion policy by the Minister for Justice Helen McEntee stalled for over 12 months.

Today, 15th May 2024, (International Day of Families) hundreds of migrant workers recruited to work in Ireland to do essential work held a mass demonstration outside Minister for Justice Helen McEntee’s offices to call for changes to the family reunion policy that is keeping their families separated.

Under the current family reunion policy essential workers must wait 12 months before they can even apply to bring their family to Ireland. These applications then take up to 12 months to be processed. As part of this process workers face an unfair salary assessment that thousands simply cannot meet because the jobs they do don’t pay enough to meet thresholds set by the Department of Justice. This means many migrant workers are left as long as 7 years without being able to reunite with their immediate family.

Nurudeen Oyewole, spokesperson for the Families Belong Together campaign group and a social care worker said, “It’s deeply painful for me not being able have my children and wife with me here. I miss them every single day, but we are separated by the family reunion policy. I want to be in my kids lives, they need me. My wife and I need each other too. I shouldn’t have to choose between providing for my family and being with them.”

Families Belong Together Campaign group member Shiji Joseph, originally from India, who works as a carer in a nursing home said, “It is so hard to return to an empty home at the end of a work shift. I would love nothing more than to see my kids every day, to help them with their homework, to share a meal as a family, all of us together, myself, my husband, and my kids.”

She continued “It shouldn’t have to be this way. We are appealing with all our hearts to Minister Helen McEntee as a mother herself to remove the barriers separating us from our families.”

Neil Bruton, Campaigns Manager with MRCI said “The people demonstrating here today care for older people.  They build our roads and houses. They drive our buses. They pick, pack, and cook our food. Despite working full time and paying taxes, they are forced to live apart from their families for years on end because of an unfair system.”

Mr Bruton concluded “This policy has been ‘under review’ for the past 12 months, it is unclear why this is taking so long when people are desperate to have their families with them. Minister McEntee has the power to reunite families by scrapping these deeply unjust rules. People can’t wait, she must act now. Scrap the salary check. Scrap the waiting period. Enable all workers to have their family with them from the start.”



Neil Bruton, 083 426 0081

Edel McGinley, 087 748 5695


Photos available at:


Notes to Editor

  • Current Policy Rules

The current family reunification policy document can be accessed here:

  • Policy Review

This policy has not been updated since 2016 and has been ‘under review’ for over 12 months. There is no clear timeframe for a completion of this review.

  • Processing Times

The Department of Justice have long processing times for applications. They are currently processing applications to join family in Ireland received to the Dublin office in June 2023

  • Other EU Countries

Several other EU countries provide family reunion more easily to people in full time employment. In France, Austria and Netherlands people earning the minimum wage or similar are entitled to bring their family.

  • Right to work

Improved access to family reunion is called for in conjunction with the right to work for spouses and dependents who join family members here. This practice is commonplace across Europe.


The EU Directive on Family Reunification states that family members of the foreign national are entitled to a residence permit of the same duration as that of the person they have joined and, on the same terms as that person, to access to education, employment, and vocational training.